Asia’s mobile messaging apps mean big business (and bucks) for developers

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By Brandy Shaul Comment

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Image courtesy Kakao Talk on Google Play

Mobile messaging apps have become all the rage across Asia, as Korea’s Kakao Talk is the latest app to pass 100 million users. As services like Twitter and Facebook fail to keep up in many countries (or are blocked entirely in some regions), users turn to these mobile messaging apps as a way for fast, easy (and usually free) communication with friends and loved ones.

According to The Next Web, Kakao Talk’s users send over 5.2 billion messages per day, but the service still trails behind the leaders in the space. Japan’s Line, for instance, has over 150 million registered users and China’s WeChat has over 300 million. The market leader in the states, WhatsApp, recently hit a new record of 27 billion messages processed in a single 24-hour period (and that’s with a $0.99 install price on iOS and a $0.99 yearly subscription on Android, after the first free year). For Asia though, Kakao Talk’s figures are certainly impressive.

While Kakao Talk is a free application, it makes money through the sale of sticker packs containing emoticons that can be used in future messages. These stickers are available in packs of 12 for $1-2 each.

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“Stickers” are also being utilized as a revenue stream in Japan’s Line messaging app. As reported by Lighthouse Insights, the sale of stickers in Line helped the app make $58 million in the first quarter of 2013 alone. Approximately $17 million of that figure was earned specifically from the sale of stickers, while another portion was earned from social games that people play together on the app.

Applications like WhatsApp confirm that free mobile messaging apps aren’t just successful in Asia. Another option, MessageMe, saw over one million active users join the app within two weeks of its launch back in March.

After Facebook launched Facebook Home, an Android home screen experience that allows for easier, deeper access to social networking features, Kik Interactive CEO Ted Livingston told Inside Mobile Apps that mobile messaging apps are the “killer app[s] in mobile.”

“[I]t’s a great statement for us because we’re a leading messenger and here’s Facebook, the No. 1 social company in the world, saying it’s all about messaging,” Livingston said.

Back in China, where Facebook and Twitter and blocked, WeChat has thrived as more than just a mobile messaging experience. According to Lighthouse Insights, WeChat has formed a partnership with China Merchants Bank to provide financial features within the app. Tying personal information (like credit card information) to their WeChat account lets users check their bills, transactions records and more.

Mobile messaging across Asia only looks to continue to grow in the future. Business 2 Community reports that Vietnam’s Zalo has three million users and climbing, sending over 30 million messages per day, while The Next Web predicts that WeChat will likely pass 400 million registered users sometime before the end of the 2013 calendar year.

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